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Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Over Shavuos, I was engaged in a conversation about one of my favorite topics - understanding people. The theory was proposed that difficulties in life foster depth of character - that our struggles in life cause us introspect and expand our inner selves so that we can handle and internalize those lessons we have learned from difficult challenges. The metaphor was given of those who have struggled having a deep foundation in the ground, digging deeper with each challenge we face; while those who have not gone through such difficult times starting at ground level. It was an interesting theory. I definitely think that I have learned the most and grown incredibly from the hardest struggles I have faced. Getting through those difficulties were great challenges - but managing to do so always left me on the other side feeling stronger, a little wiser and probably, as the theory goes, somewhat deeper. But as theories go, I feel there must be exceptions to the rule. Can a person be deep without having gone through struggles? Perspective is relative. I don't consider my life to have been terribly difficult, but when you compare the challenges I have faced with others, some of them make my life seem extremely difficult and some of them make it seem easy. But can someone who has, objectively, gone through few challenges be deep? And can those who have gone through major struggles come out on the other end without that depth of character? I guess part of it is how one faces those challenges. If they choose not to deal with them, to avoid them, or not to learn and grow from their difficulties, they can come out on the other side without having gained their deep foundation. But what I wonder more about is if someone who has had life generally easy, can also be "deep." Is depth an inborn trait? If it is, does that predict how a person will deal with struggles - if they will face them with introspection and growth? While someone without that natural depth will not have the natural tools to deal with it? And is it fair to compare depth of character between individuals? How do you measure it? Are some people more deep than others? Or are they just seemingly so at times? I don't know. It's the whole nature-nurture debate, which I have always felt has to boil to a compromise between the two, though I can't ever decide what the ratio of one to the other should be. I have to admit that the theory rang true to me on some levels, mainly because, like I said, I definitely think that my struggles in life gave me the most growth and depth of character, the most understanding of others and myself. But is the same true of others?


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